Wednesday, August 17, 2005
A conversation with . . .
Trumpet virtuoso Paul Neebe to play
in The Winds of Wintergreen's performance
Saturday at Virginia Tech chamber kickoff
|Conversations: Looking back|
The third-annual University Chamber Music Kickoff and Reception takes place Saturday at the German Club on the Virginia Tech campus with a performance of baroque and early classical works by Molter, Mozart, Fasch and Duvernoy performed by The Winds of Wintergreen — a six-person group of paired oboes, bassoons and horns who perform classical works nationally and internationally.
This year, the group will be joined by internationally acclaimed trumpet virtuoso Paul Neebe. A resident of Chapel Hill, N.C., Julliard alumnus Neebe currently splits his time between touring and serving as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Virginia and as the principal trumpet of the University of Virginia Symphony and the Roanoke Symphony.
Here, Neebe offers a deeper look into his successful career.
I know you’re involved with a lot of projects these days. Any you’re particularly excited about?
Paul Neebe: I have a CD coming out with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra that’s gonna be on the Albany Records label that should be coming out, hopefully, in a month or two. It’s amazing how much work a CD is, especially with orchestra.
It’s amazing even with a four-piece band how much time you’ll spend recording a three-minute song.
PN: We had four four-hour sessions. Most of the work is not the recording; it’s getting the music together, and the preparation like the cover and the liner notes. But some other things I’m involved in, I just gave a recital in Germany last week — trumpet and organ — with a wonderful organist named Ulrich Knoerr who I had the opportunity to make a CD with a few years ago. And this concert with the Winds of Wintergreen, this will be a lot of fun, because we’re playing some pieces by Molter that were written specifically for woodwind quintet with trumpet added.
The Wintergreen is based on pairs of horns, bassoon and oboe, right?
PN: Yes, two of each.
And this is an annual concert for them. Is this an annual event for you as well?
PN: This is just their annual concert, and I was fortunate enough to have them invite me to come play with them. … We did a concert together up at the Wintergreen Music Festival in July. We just played one of the Molters, sort of a dress rehearsal for this concert.
You went to Julliard and you teach at UVa. You have a busy career touring. What got you into music in the first place? What is it about for you?
PN: Hard question. I started playing recorder. My mom used some reverse psychology on me. She had one and she said, "Oh I can’t do this" — it was like a low C on the recorder — and I was 5 or 6 years old and was like, "Oh it’s easy, I can do this." So I learned to play the recorder and I guess it wasn’t exciting enough for me. When music came around in the public schools and they asked what I wanted to play, I knew right away I wanted to play trumpet. I have no idea why.
When they asked me I chose clarinet, and that whole year I felt like I should have been playing trumpet. And I don’t know why, I think I just loved the sound.
PN: You put your finger right on it for me. That’s what I love about the trumpet, the sound. One time I went on vacation, and normally I bring at least one horn with me, and this time I didn’t. And after about a week I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to go to a music shop and act like I was gonna buy a trumpet so I could just go play it and get that sound in my ear.
That’s hilarious. So here’s a question that might seem vague: do you have any sort of running dialogue with yourself in your personal approach to your playing, as you continue to expand your performance of the music?
PN: I always try to imagine the best that it can sound. You’re always going to play-land where everything’s wonderful. Ideally, that’s what we try to do every day when we pick up our instruments. And then musically, along those lines, what I find really exciting is finding composers and commissioning pieces, and having them write a concerto for me. I just had Eddie Bass, who is a professor emeritus from UNC-G in Greensboro, and he just recently wrote a concerto for me that I played with a community orchestra in Chapel Hill. That was a lot of fun.
How do you select a composer? Do you ask the composer to write in a certain style, or do you select an individual composer because of his or her style and have them carry that style into the project?
PN: For me, it’s more the style of the composer, because I hate putting limitations on people. With Eddie Bass, I told him to write whatever he wanted. I told him I liked the idea of a lot of different instruments … where I have to play a few different horns. So he wrote I think a five-movement piece. One movement was for flugal horn, one movement was for piccolo, one was for E-flat trumpet, one for C. That made it interesting for the audience to hear, I think. I think you pick the composer because you like the way they write. With Eddie Bass, I said, "Who did you write this for?" because it’s an incredibly hard piece. But I survived it and it actually went really well.
So it keeps the challenge up, but it’s a rewarding one.